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Hitting the road

Construction Week's fourth BIM breakfast discussed ways BIM is expanding into road and infrastructure projects

ANALYSIS, PMV, BIM breakfast

BIM can allow for collaboration across the globe on projects, uniting clients, architects, engineers and consultants according to experts at the latest event looking at the best way of utilising 3D design technology.

The technology has allowed for some fabulous structures to be built, but until recently the clue to its focus has very much laid in its full name – Building Information Modelling.

However, delegates at the fourth of the BIM Breakfast events held by Construction Week in association with our sister titles Middle East Architect and MEP Middle East heard that the software is now moving far beyond building and is now being applied into major infrastructure and road-building projects.

For instance, Riyadh’s light rail system, which has involved around 3,900 people scattered across 14 countries, was cited as a case in point by Aconex as part of a presentation on the practical applications of the design technology at the event, which was held on 17 February at Dubai’s JW Marriott Marquis hotel.

More than 100 professionals from the design and build industry attended the event, where Bentley Systems’ technical business consultant Ahmed Fahmy was first to speak. He referred to how BIM had become so much more than its initials, moving beyond both buildings and modelling.

He said: “It’s now not just modelling – it’s management and mobility – it’s across the whole design and build operation. The technology is way beyond just building – it’s the concept and the theory as well. And it’s not just for the design team.”

He added that there were new varieties of the software becoming available, such as Bridge Information Modelling systems known as BRIM and a system for roads known as RIM.

Fahmy said: “A project we were involved in was in the African state of Burkina Faso. It was a [manufacturing] plant and was located 1,200km from the nearest seaport, so bringing in materials was a challenge.

“But by using BIM to monitor the project we were able to decide exactly what was needed – and so saved the client $135,000 a month.”

Andrew Killander of construction collaboration software specialist Aconex argued that BIM must be made available to all parties on a project. He said that BIM was now used on more than half of all of the projects for which its technology was used during 2013.

He said: “Sometimes, the client does not understand why an engineer is so excited about a particular part of a project – and that is because they have not seen what BIM can reveal.”

He said a recent project for a hospital in Adelaide had seen 3,000 people from 1,000 companies involved and several hundred of the businesses contributed to the BIM model.

“There is a need to contribute so that the model contains the level of data which everyone needs.”

He added that the technology was being used via its platform on the $23.5bn Riyadh Metro.

“There are 3,900 people involved in the project,” he said. “They come from 14 countries and they may tackle up to 14,000 issues a week – 2,000 a day. They are collaborating across the world and that is through BIM.”

Andrew Milburn of architecture firm GAJ emphasised his belief that BIM should be taught as a practical tool throughout architecture school, and not just as a single course or module.

He added that he believed it should be the basis of a student’s toolkit: “Get your BIM pencils out – here’s a problem, now solve it,” he said.

Meanwhile, Aecom project delivery director Bill Thomson is a former lieutenant colonel in the Australian Army’s engineering corps, and he believes that lessons can be learned by the construction sector from a soldier’s approach to problem-solving.

“You can take a man out of the military but you cannot take the military out of someone who has served,” he said.

“If you are a coalition, you need to learn to work together. It is the same in any development project.”

Thomson said that BIM can be used “from pre-feasibility to operation and management” at any project.

A recent feature of the BIM Breakfast events has been break-out roundtable discussions and subjects covered this time around were looking at BIM from an owner’s perspective, BIM and engineering, faults and problems with the technology and how Dubai Municipality’s recent mandate that BIM should be used on all public projects above a certain size will impact on the construction market.

Speaking after the event, Fahmy said: “There was an excellent range of subjects covered by a very high quality level of speakers and attendees.”

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